The Academy award-winning actor Nicole Kidman used an appearance before the US Congress to accuse Hollywood of contributing to violence against women by portraying them as sex objects.
Kidman was speaking yesterday in her role as a UN ambassador to a House foreign affairs subcommittee that is considering legislation to tackle violence against women overseas.
When asked by Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher whether the film industry “played a bad role” in the way it portrayed women, Kidman replied “Probably”, before going on to say that she refused to take roles that portrayed women as weak sex objects. “I can’t be responsible for all of Hollywood, but I can certainly be responsible for my own career.”
The International Violence Against Women Act is draft legislation that has been before Congress since 2007, but never passed. If enacted, it would require the US government to actively assist in anti-violence campaigns overseas, through both diplomacy and funding.
Kidman’s own acting career has seen her take on controversial roles in terms of the cinematic portrayal of women. Dogville (2003), directed by Lars von Trier, required her character to be humiliated, raped and chained to a large iron wheel. In Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, she played a woman whose husband (her then real-life spouse Tom Cruise) is tortured by visions of her infidelity.
She also took the lead role in the 2004 remake of perfect-marriage satire, The Stepford Wives, and appeared in the most expensive perfume advert ever made.
But early in her career Kidman was cast as the freethinker Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion’s adaptation of Henry James’ novel, and went on to play radical modernist writer Virginia Woolf in The Hours. One of her early roles saw her playing a weather presenter who plots to kill her husband to further her career in Gus van Sant’s black comedy To Die For. She is due to play transsexual Elinar Wegener in the forthcoming film The Danish Girl, about the first full sex reassignment operation.
Kidman has represented the UN Development Fund for Women (Unifem) since 2006, but has worked for the UN since 1994 when she became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). She merged her professional and ambassadorial roles in 2005, when she played a UN employee who discovers an assassination plot in the film The Interpreter.